A Scanner Darkly

Mr Zombie   November 29, 2016   12 Comments on A Scanner Darkly

I knew it would happen, eventually.  The feeling has always been there, a gargantuan mass, just out of sight, the pull of it’s gravity ever tempting.  Never quite taking me, but always looming in the recesses of my mind.  It frequently tries to assume control of the cockpit of my mind, but I’ve had the strength to force it back.  But for how long?

The problem is, I think I’m a Scanner.  Sadly, not the type that can pop people’s heads clean off with just my mind.

If only...work would be so much more interesting.

If only…work would be so much more interesting.

But a Scanner of this variety –> LINK.

The problem is, you see, I’m interested in EVERYTHING.  The idea of specialising in one area, for the rest of my life, fills me with horror.  There’s so much possibility.  I want to try new things, to learn new things, to succeed and fail at different things.

Being this way led me to change the direction of my career after University and then again after a few years working as an accountant.

I will always enjoy trying new things, perhaps it’s the speed of improvement when trying something new or it’s simply the act of doing something different.

I enjoy being this way, embracing change.  But it is at odds with the trek towards Financial Independence, especially in it’s current form (relying on keeping a steady high savings rate and investing in ‘index’ type funds).  This Scanner personality type might just well be the slow suffocation of my steady march towards Financial Independence.

It could end up with me getting bored or the savings journey itself and looking to move onto something new.

Or I might end up actually following up on one of the whimsical new careers I fancy.  Learning something new would be awesome, but it would seriously hamper my efforts at saving as it would almost certainly involve a serious slash to my earnings.  Money isn’t everything, but it’s a fair chunk of the battle in the Financial Independence game, at least the version that I’m currently playing.

Too much choice

I’ve spent the last four years retraining in my new career (also the last couple of years realigning my financial habits) and I am just about starting to earn a qualified wage for what I do, which is nice.

But the feeling that joinery, or photography, or medicine, or running my own gym, or developing properties would be an interesting way to spend a few years is beginning to get stronger and stronger.

Perhaps it comes down to why you do a certain career.  Is it because you have a passion for it or because you need to get paid.  For most of us, it’s a mixture of the two.  Lie too close to being in the game for the money alone and you will surely burn out.

The pace of learning in my career has dropped off steeply, and so too has the rate of any increases to salary.  It would seem almost foolish to pull the plug now, to change my trajectory of my working life away from that future income stream to something smaller.  At least for a few years I should reap the rewards of all those years of training I sowed.

Not sure exactly where I am on this (very technical) chart.  I know, from past experience, when I lose interest in something it goes fast.

At the start of something new the rate of learning is high. Remuneration for this lags as you learn, then you become an expect and get paid more. But there's less to learn...and so interest begins to fade

At the start of something new the rate of learning is high. Remuneration for this lags as you learn, then you become an expect and get paid more. But there’s less to learn…and so interest begins to fade

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy what I do.  It’s technical and interesting.  Not once have I woken up and really not wanted to make the two mile walk or cycle to work.  Some days have been more enticing than others, for sure.  But I’ve never actually dreaded going in.  Some days I really enjoy what I do, I get lost in the flow of technical work.  Some days I’d rather drink gin and shout at pigeons in the park.

Not sure the paradox of choice applies to me, an outlier to be ignored.  [Watch the video – it is great]

It just feels like there is something more interesting out there, somewhere.  For some, Mrs Z included, there is a certain pleasure to be gained from repetition, or at least some comfort.

It’s going to be an ongoing battle for the next few years, pushing back the day dreaming of what else is out there to reap the rewards of prior years of training and study.  A battle I’m privileged to have to fight.  A battle that is less AK47’s, hand grenades and bayonet charging.  And more a quiet, but determined and tactical argument, over a lovely cappuccino with a friend.  A battle nonetheless, dammit.

But what is a crux in my accumulation phase, will be a benefit when I roll over the finish line into Financial Independence.

Hey, Fuck You, Money

Indeed, I am moving towards thinking of my savings as a ‘Scanner Fund’, rather than ‘Fuck You Money‘.   Instead of a pot of money based around a negative (Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me) it’s built on a positive (Ah yes, I can do this, and this, and this, and this…).

Changing the mindset in this way raises an interesting question, does this change the purpose of the fund?

Initially, I always assumed I would work and save until some monetary target was met (all of my living expenses to be covered by my investments) and then, in the smoke of a celebratory flare I’d just fired skywards, declare myself Financially Independent.  Next in the plan, to the abhorrent screech of smoke alarms, I’d flip senior management the bird and leap out the 4th floor window and deploy my parachute.  I’d float gracefully through the air, to the back drop of red flare smoke pouring out the shattered window of what used to be my office, laughing manically while onlookers think “what a guy”.  Got to have a plan.


Thinking of the savings as a ‘Scanner Fund‘ is the unlikely key to a different universe of possibilities.  Should it be used as some kind of bridge, a fund to support my income, rather than supply it all?  Then, using my new found monetary bridge, start trying a whole host of different careers.  Apply your will to something hard enough and you’re probably going to start to make some money.  Supported by the ‘Scanner Fund’, it doesn’t even need to generate all that much income.

Perhaps I get 50% of the way towards my fund allowing FI to be declared, I rebadge it my ‘Scanner Fund’, begin to drawdown on it and supplement the income with one of my new career choices.  Perhaps as an apprentice joiner, amateur wrestler or writer, who knows.

A Scanner Fund would help to move income down the pecking order a bit, when it comes to choosing what we do for a living.

I’ve been locked into a certain mindset, that I need to be completely Financially Independent before trying something new.  I’m not sure it needs to be that way.  Sure, the above is inherently more risky.  But we’re all smart people, we can make things work.  It seems my 5 year plan might just be changing…

Mr Z

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12 thoughts on “A Scanner Darkly

  1. weenie

    Nice post Mr Z – I’m with you in not referring to my own ‘fund’ as Fuck You Money, instead, calling it my ‘Future Fund’. By the time there’s enough in it (‘my number’), it’s likely that I will want to retire but then again, I may just want to drop down to part-time hours for example. I don’t share your desire to change my career radically but I have got a lot of hobbies (old and new) that I want to get on with, so perhaps that’s what I’ll do.

    Reviewing the plan is a good idea – goals and aims need to be flexible and how you felt when you set the goals initially may not reflect how you feel now and of course, circumstances change.

  2. sarah

    I think you’re right to question where you stand, ive been doing the financial maths with the other half and we could either save 50% of our earnings or I quit my Job now (I want to try pastures new), I dont hate my job but there’s a yearning.
    So even I you do go in a different direction, the point is that you’ll have the right mind set.
    What’s the point of having enough stash yo give you £2000 a month if you don’t want / need nor will spend that much.
    Think who I more the fool…me who has worked all my life to pay for a life style and a mortgage or my brother who has travelled all his life been an artist (mostly piss artist!) and never had a mortgage but has experienced so much more than me.
    The future is bright if you want it to be.

  3. Adam

    Yours is the 2nd post I have read with this theme recently. It seems we are quite similar, as I read and digested all I could find on financial independence and have entered into that with reckless abandon. However there is something about thinking of it as a supplementary way of following your dreams and having a bit of a skill learning adventure, rather than all out retirement that resonates strongly with me… Perhaps it is because I am also a man who finds new interests and begins a new career and learning process every 4-5 years…. Thanks for the post. It is good to know you are not alone.

  4. theFIREstarter

    Welcome to the club bro! 🙂

    I was very pleasantly surprised when I found out that being a scanner was a “thing” and it strongly resonated with me. I too love to learn new stuff but when that learning curve starts to plateau off I get bored pretty quickly and often look to other new stuff. I’m quite surprised I’ve kept blogging this long to be honest but I suppose the draw to come back here is that there is always new stuff to write about (well so far, for me, at least. Maybe not forever though!). Same with golf, it is a very hard game to get even remotely good at so even though I’ve played casually for about 10 years I still see a big learning curve ahead of me.

    In your situation I’d try to stick it out at least a little longer as you are smashing it on the savings rate, if you can of course. But always put happiness first! Once you have *some* savings behind you it really does give you a big launching pad to have a break from work, recharge and then try something new. I think anyone that even manages to save up say, a “paltry” sum of over 100,000 in a few short years will have no problems with living off of that while they learn to make money in new ways.

    BTW my second ever post gives a bit of a nod to this method of ERE-ing: http://thefirestarter.co.uk/early-retirement-in-5-years-in-the-uk-is-it-possible/ and I’ve written about it many times since, in fact over my FI “journey” I’ve just got more and more likely on the side of quitting earlier and taking the time now to do stuff that interests me, rather than wait later when I’m full FI which could take 7-8 years still. The power of (very mild) frugality has allowed me to do that.

    I mean it’s not exactly rocket science and I’m definitely not the first to say it (pretty sure MMM and ERE have both said you don’t need to wait till full FI to quit a job if you don’t particularly like it) but didn’t want Andy from liberate.life taking all the credit for it haha 😉 – If you haven’t checked out his site yet please do though as he has taken this idea and put it into a very coherent framework and written about it in a far more entertaining way than I ever have done.

    Best of luck with whatever path you take, I’ll be watching with interest! 🙂

  5. Living Cheap In London

    Well, you know my thoughts pretty much i think from previous commengint. I went part time & the resulting free time has allowed me to “scan” a variety of new interests, hobbies, & community projects over the last 6 years.

    The paid work, which is you may recall, is only 3 days/week, has enough interest to keep me from jumping out the window…. but truth be told isn’t 100% excitement some days. However, the work relationships I have having been there for a long time now count for a lot & to be largely surrounded people i enjoy working with has huges upsides to the working day that cannot be discounted.

    The trick for us with the kids in tow has been to keep the overheads trimmed so we can both work PT & still save up at a pretty decent %.

  6. ermine

    hehe – stick with the FI goal. I am on the other side, and I have a similar sort of problem. The whole point of getting to FI is to have the freedom to pursue interests and then be able to move on, the joy of inquiry in to a rich world of fascinating stuff with an aristocratic insouciance as to whether it makes money or not.

    The trouble is that nothing ruins a good project as much as having to make money out of it. If I had to live on what I earn from my post-retirement projects I’d be on the breadline. I tried making a couple of projects pay, and it strips out all the joy of it all. I don’t do that any more. I do some jobs where people actually chase me for something I’d done or demoed, but not to make a living, simply to get my time valued.

    Now we are of course all different, and perhaps I am blinkered by limiting beliefs about work and money. But I’d certainly challenge the assumption that a host of different careers will be as lucrative. You’re a clever guy, and can no doubt turn your hand to a lot of things. But the workplace has become a lot more competitive, and track record counts in things like contracting.

    For sure, aim for it. But test that assumption with a few jobs on the side before relying on it 😉

    1. weenie

      “I tried making a couple of projects pay, and it strips out all the joy of it all.”

      A couple of friends reckon I could be setting up a micro-brewing business when I no longer need to work. That would just suck out all the enjoyment I get from my homebrewing.

      I intend for my hobbies to be for fun and enjoyment – if some money is made, then great; if no money, then also great!

  7. DW

    I recently added a Semi-FI target to my spreadsheet for a similar reason. That figure is just over a third of my FI-proper number, and it’s what would fill in the difference for living costs if I was working 16 hours a week on National Minimum Wage. [I’m currently paid a bit more than average wage – not amazing I know but it is an incredibly interesting, fun and stable job. Every time I start feeling a bit bored, it seems to change direction itself. Not quite sure how that happens but it does. I suspect I have more control over it than I think.]
    Certainly not a career aspiration to do 16 hours on NMW but it gives me a more achievable target, or the option if I want to change direction.

  8. Mrs. ETT

    This is so me. To be brutally honest, from an earnings point of view, I think I have definitely taken a hit. Despite having worked for longer than Mr. ETT, having more formal education and a broader range of experience and skills to bring to a job, he earns more working part-time than I do working full-time in a similar field. He has been with his company 10 years, I have moved around.

    Do I regret it? Of course not – each job I have increases my skills and keeps me interested, and while money is important because I want to be fairly remunerated, it isn’t the be-all and end-all. However, when considering earnings, I think my lack of stability has played a part.

      1. Mrs. ETT

        Yeah Weenie, that is a possibility. The thing is, if that is the reason then I am powerless to change it. If it is because I’ve moved around, then the solution is in my hands. Gender pay gap makes me sad 😞


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